ACAD’s fiscal future looks bleak
An internal report regarding ACAD’s future financial stability indicates the school may have trouble remaining sustainable in the future.
“I met with ACAD students [on Thursday, Nov. 9.], and I heard that they are frustrated at the poor communication from the government surrounding that institution,” said Marlin Schmidt, minister of advanced education, who pledged to better communicate with the ACAD community.
“I’m looking forward to that ongoing dialogue to make sure that we can all work together to make sure that ACAD is a successful institution,” said Schmidt.
ACAD commissioned the report through Ronald B. Bond Consulting. The report has been shared internally, but came to light through a copy obtained by CBC News.
“We’re hopeful that a new funding structure will better support all institutions, including ACAD and promote stability,” said Schmidt.
The report revealed ACAD used $1.2 million in unrestricted reserves to balance the most recent budget. Schmidt said post-secondary institutions have faced funding issues because there is “no rhyme or reason” to provincial funding grants.
“We’re looking at better ways to better allocate our educational grant funding to institutions, so we can support institutions that are growing more quickly than others,” said Schmidt.
A number of factors have affected the current state of ACAD including government grants, tuition, revenue from secondary services such as parking, food and faculty rentals and donations.
“ACAD has one of the lowest government grants in the province for a college its size and has one of the lowest tuition rates in the province, coupled with a multi-year tuition freeze really limits our ability to weather rising inflation costs over an extended period of time,” said Steven Hodges, ACAD internal engagement specialist.
Recommendations are detailed in the report highlighting seven key factors that have led to the college’s problems, coupled with 22 “action items” intended to help ACAD remain fiscally safe and open.
A town hall was held Wednesday, Nov. 1 in an attempt to help ease concerns over the post-secondary’s future. The town hall is the first step in generating an open conversation addressing sustainability with students, faculty and staff.
“We have been very honest and transparent about our future situation. While concerns for ACAD’s future from students, faculty and staff have been raised, we’ve had a great response from each group asking how they can help be part of the solution,” said Hodges.
ACAD president Daniel Doz said in an interview with CBC news, one of the main reasons the post-secondary has run into financial issues, is the tuition revenue generated by the schools 1,200 students is not matching inflation rates.
Doz raised concerns that in the next five to 10 years the school could face issues if a financial plan is not established soon.
Over this summer ACAD submitted a report to the province requesting funding to address the sustainability and growth of the school. They received a “categorical rejection” from the project.
“I’m not surprised honestly. The ACAD officials, they don’t really listen to their students,” said Alex Latta, an ACAD student majoring in drawing and specializing in digital art. Latta said she was concerned the post-secondary will choose to increase class sizes and tuition prices as a result of the report, when the one-on-one time with teachers serves as a main draw for the school.
Over the 2015/2016 school year ACAD received more than $15 million in provincial funding.
“ACAD’s dug it’s own grave. They don’t listen to the students at all. They’re not keeping up to date,” said Latta, citing a petition started by fellow students to have animation introduced a major to ACAD that was ignored. The petition was able to garner more than 500 signatures, equivalent to more than a third of the student population.
The provincial government has asked ACAD administrators to investigate ways for the school to adjust their budget over the next three years in an effort to help mitigate the current financial crisis.
These plans will largely be governed by the expected changes to advanced education after the current tuition freeze is lifted.
“The town hall meetings are pretty useless because the ‘big wigs’ ignore questions and brush people aside. They don’t answer things directly and student suggestions are never taken seriously,” said Latta.
“We are the people giving them money. We are the people paying to keep this school alive.
“They should listen to us and they’re not.”